Many years ago, an old man and equally old horse were plowing a field in south Alabama, when a dusty sedan, with Department of Agriculture lettered on the side pulled to a stop just ahead of them. A young man jumped from the car and ran up to the old farmer, who kept the plow moving as if nothing unusual was happening. The young man shouted, “Stop, I’m from the Department of Agriculture, and I know some new ways to farm that will help you.”
Without slowing or deviating from the furrow he was plowing, the old man looked at the young man and said, “Son, I’m not going to stop. I don’t need to hear what you have to say. I already know how to farm better than I do.”
Like that old farmer, I know how to sell books better than I have been. I don’t know how to sell a million books in a month, but I know that giving away 500,000 won’t do it. We have been told that if we give away books for three days and then go back to our regular price on the fourth day, an algorithm will kick in, and we will sell a lot of books.
I’ve been in sales for almost forty-five years. I’ve studied sales. I’ve been successful at sales. I know more sales techniques than I could use in three lifetimes. And, in accumulating that knowledge, I’ve learned two things that apply directly to the problem at hand—selling books.
First: Giving away your product is not a way to be successful in sales, no matter what product you’re selling.
Second: An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. An algorithm is not a sales technique or marketing plan.
Thousands of us have listened to the self-publishing, urban legend that states—the way to sell your Kindle book is give it away for free for three days and on fourth day sell it at the regular price and you’ll be a successful author. So thousands, probably tens of thousands of us tried it. I gave away over 2,000 copies of Fourth and Forever and sold 58 copies at $2.99.
There’s something about the ego that explains personal failure this way. “Well, it worked for everyone else. You must have pissed off the gods of sales.” As stupid as that sounds, we believe it. Want to know how dumb that whole concept is? Take it out of the book business and apply it to something else—say the car business.
Imagine for a moment that you and I meet with Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of both Nissan and Nissan-Renault Alliance. In our meeting with Carlos we explain, “We have a plan that will insure your success as a car manufacturer. Here’s how it works. Next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, you give away a new car to everyone who wants one. Then on Thursday, stop giving away cars and sell every car at full sticker price. What do you think of that Carlos?”
Just before I began writing this bog post, I visited my Kindle Direct Publishing Dashboard and raised the price of each of my four books from $2.99 to $4.99. Now, there’s a marketing plan I can believe in.